CINDER by Marissa Meyer
Retold Fairy Tale/Sci-Fi, 387 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
Last year during Fairy Tale Fortnight, I hosted an interview from this lady, Marissa Meyer, who had a book coming out in the misty distant future about a cyborg Cinderella. It sounded quirky and weird and awesome, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it to share it with you this year for FTF. But uh...turns out I couldn't wait until April to share the awesomeness that is Cinder. (But no worries. We'll find some other way to get Marissa and Cinder involved in FTF this year!)
Clearly from Fairy Tale Fortnight, I love a good fairy tale retelling. I even occasionally love a bad fairy tale retelling. But what I absolutely love most about any fairy tale retelling is when the story can stand on its own. This is where a lot of retellings fail, because without the recognizable elements that some rely on too heavily, the story falls flat. Thankfully, that is not at all the case with Cinder. All of the familiar set-pieces of Cinderella are definitely there, but Meyer doesn't use the fairy tale as a crutch. Even if you don't know or like the original fairy tale, Cinder is complete and interesting enough on its own; it has enough going for it that it should work for fairy tale lovers and sci-fi fans alike (and if you like both, like me, then Cinder is just a treat).
Now, this is not to say it's not predictable. Of course it is. It's a fairy tale retelling - we already know the characters, the plot points, the motivations. But in a retelling, it's not so much about the story but what you make of it. And I have to say, this is absolutely one of the most creative and unique twists on a fairy tale that I've read, but what's even better is that it's not forced. There's good depth and believability for such a potentially outlandish premise. It doesn't feel like Meyer sat down and said "How can I make Cinderella weird/new/different/innovative?" The sci-fi/cyborg elements don't feel forced on the tale, they feel more like a natural evolution, and where Cinderella was our lovable outcast of the past, Cinder is our lovable outcast of the future.
And she's strong. She's smart, she's spunky, she's brave. AND SHE'S NOT A SWOONER. (I mean, other than when her cyborg body sort of overloads and kinda sorta electrocutes her. But that doesn't count.) My point is, she's not simpering, and her elevation from outcast status isn't going to be wholly dependent on a fairy godmother and Prince Charming. She intends to take control of her own life and make it what she wants it to be.
[Ignore me while I jump up and down and scream "Yes! This!"]
She has her hardships and has to continually work against prejudice, but she's competent and perseverant and I ♥ her for it.
Add to all this that the stakes are legitimately high, not just for Cinder but for her entire world - tough choices have to be made and bad things actually do happen, and there is just enough doubt in the readers mind that maybe things won't be very happily-ever-after. It's not saccharine, and I ♥ Marissa for this.
But above all, it's just story telling that worked for me. It reminded me of Firefly and Ever After, and a million other things that I love. But it didn't feel derivative of those things; more like Marissa grew up with the same loves and interests as I did, and they wormed their way in, just a touch, to give the story this enjoyably eclectic feel that nods to all these things that came before, but builds something entirely its own.
And I cannot wait to see where the story goes in the rest of the Lunar Chronicles series.
(So bring on Scarlet!)
*This review was part of the Cinder blog tour (yay!) You can check out an awesome guest post from Marissa on Cinder's cyborg elements here, or view a full list of the stops here.
Or you can sit back, watch this trailer, and then ask yourself, "Why am I not reading this book right now?"
[Need more convincing? Download the first 5 chapters here!]